Remembering Bernice G. (Bourinot) Wheeler, of Northborough, formerly of Weston, Massachusetts.
Our dear Mother, Grandmother, Great Grandmother, Great-Great Grandmother, Sister and Friend, passed away peacefully at her home surrounded by her loving family, on Wednesday, September 23, 2020 at the age of 90. Bernice was the beloved wife of 58 years to James T. Wheeler until his death in 2008.
Bernice, affectionately known to all as “Bernie” or “Tootsie”, was born in Waltham, Massachusetts on February 22, 1930 and raised in Weston, Massachusetts, one of 6 children to the late David H. and Mary E. (Cotter) Bourinot. As a young woman, she worked as a waitress at the former Candyland in Waltham and subsequently, caught the attention of a young man James Wheeler. After their marriage, the young couple lived in Waltham for several years prior to relocating to Northborough in 1957.
With an optimistic outlook on life, Bernie made the most of what life had in store for her. No matter how busy her schedule, with 6 children, she would find solace while standing at her easel, perfecting her portrait drawings. Bernie was a self-taught gifted artist whose portraits adorned many homes of those she knew and loved as well as those who commissioned her work. Two of her favorite portraits were among President Kennedy’s private collection and remained at the Kennedy Library archives until the late 90’s when she was able to bring them home. She was a longtime parishioner at St. Rose of Lima Parish and was supportive of its Alter Society and TEC. She sang in the church choir for many years. Bernie assisted in the care of the parish rectory, helped care for the priests’ vestments and provided artwork for the parish.
Bernie lived a fulfilling life and found solace in nature. She loved the mountains and spoke often of her favorite summer working for her Aunt Ellen with her cousin Diane at Streeter’s Cabins in Jackson New Hampshire.
She was a wonderful mother to her 6 children and raised them all to follow the beat of their own drum. While raising her family Bernie would find the time to decorate cakes for neighborhood birthdays, school parties and weddings. Her creativity and sense of humor could cheer up any occasion. Her family will fondly remember school lunch surprises like a sandwich decorated as the Easter Bunny, green tuna fish on St Patrick’s day or as a practical joke, a block of wood, wrapped and disguised as a piece of fudge!
Once her children left home, Bernie was interested in doing something that she would enjoy. She found this when she began working at Country Candle in Northborough. Bernie said it was never work at all but rather a place she loved to be, spending time with people whose companionship she loved dearly including; Dot Desposito, Joan and Jim Laurence as well as many others.
Bernie is survived by her five children and their families, Patrick and Marilyn Wheeler of Manchester, Vermont, Eileen Gamache and Ron of Chelmsford, Mass, John and Maureen Wheeler of Holden, Mass, Bob and Linda Wheeler of Northampton, Mass, and Elizabeth Steele of Northborough, 13 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild and her sisters, Ethel Grogan and Kathleen Bourinot. She is predeceased by her siblings, Edward Bourinot, David Bourinot and Loretta Lincoln and her beloved husband James, and their son, Michael.
The family extends its deepest gratitude to Jewish Homecare, Jewish Homecare Hospice and Worcester Homecare for their loving and tireless devotion to the care of our mother.
A private Mass of Christian Burial for family only will be celebrated at St. Rose of Lima Parish, 244 W. Main Street, Northborough. Burial will follow at the Howard Street Cemetery, Northborough. There are no public calling hours planned.
Bernie’s family respectfully suggests memorial contributions be made in her memory to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105 (StJude.org) Arrangements are under the care of Hays Funeral Home, 56 Main Street, Northborough (www.HaysFuneralHome.com).